Sizzling Sound: Chefs Share their Kitchen Playlists

When the heat is on, these chefs crank up the music

Ricard Heredia, AlchemyRicard Heredia, Alchemy

The hours before a restaurant opens are consumed by mundane inventory and food preparation. It’s during that time that Jeff Rossman, executive chef/owner of Terra American Bistro, says top 40, rock, and Mexican ballads are “cranked up to promote movement and to keep staff motivated.” 

Sea Rocket Bistro’s executive chef, Tommy Fraioli, explains, “Music, in my kitchen, helps everyone stay focused during prep, by keeping talking to a minimum. We usually play a mix of rap, dubstep, drum and bass, and trap music, and some nights, right before service starts, I’ll throw on disco Pandora to put everyone in a good mood.” 

At Chaplos Restaurant & Bar downtown, “It’s usually whoever can hook up their iPhone first that calls the shots on the selection,” says executive chef Norma Martinez. “In the morning, cumbia and the Mexican ranchero genres are the most popular, and then it progresses to either classic rock or a nice popular shuffle.”

Not far from Chaplos, Antonio Friscia is executive chef/partner at two restaurants—Stingaree and Gaijin Noodle + Sake House—where Pandora stations feature global artist Manu Chao as well as Johnny Cash and Jay-Z.   

Ricardo Heredia, executive chef at Alchemy in South Park, listens to “Chopin when I am alone in the kitchen and beginning my day. Then as the day progresses it could be some Motown, some Ghostface, Pete Rock and CL Smooth, and maybe some Fat Boys in the mix. But when it’s time for business, shut up and give me that chicken.”

Service hours mean game on, when cooperation, communication, and concentration are key to a successful kitchen. Typically, music either gets cut or the volume is lowered, as sounds of cookware and cutlery clanking become the focus. 

Once service calms down, the music comes back up. Kitchen life is hot and happens in tight spaces. Passions and tempers flare. Fatigue sets in. Ultimately, music is a creative and healing force that Martinez says “certainly inspires and sets the mood for the creative process and also eases tensions whenever they arise.” We like the sound of that.  —Gerald “Dex” Poindexter

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